salt manufacturers of the Kachchh region in Gujarat have threatened to disrupt rail services if the freight charges for iodised salt are not reduced in this year's budget. The rates were increased in April 2002 by over 135 per cent, which made transportation prohibitive.
The agitation is likely to jeopardise the National Iodine Deficiency Disease Programme (niddp). When trucks transport the salt, it is difficult to monitor the quality. On the other hand, trains have special wagons for transporting iodised salts and the manufacturers have to go through strict quality checks before dispatching the products.
"Surveys have found that there are fewer iodine deficiency cases in areas where trains carry the salt," says C S Pandav, additional professor, Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. Monitoring the quality of salt is the only way in which iodine deficiency diseases can be controlled.
The increase in freight charges has also had a grave impact on Kachchh's economy. "People in the salt manufacturing industry are out of work," says Bachubhai D Ahir, who is the president of the Kachchh Small Scale Salt Manufacturers' Association.
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